Monday, May 28, 2012

Musically Humbled - Week 7

Nobody likes being humbled when it happens, but being humbled encourages us to learn and improve musically.

Last week one of my musical dreams was fulfilled. As a graduation present, my amazing parents helped pay the majority of an upright bass while I payed for the rest with graduation money. I had always wanted to play upright bass because the instrument intrigued me. It's large stature, smooth cut finish, thick strings and punchy, growling sound had always made me drool. Seeing videos and live performances of bassists lugging this gigantic instrument onto a stage and then playing all over the fret board was amazing to me. Last Thursday, my bass arrived but I didn't play it because of a date so Friday my come to Jesus moment occurred.

For people who are not familiar with an upright bass, let me educate you. The upright bass is known not only as one of the most difficult instruments to play but also one of the most physically demanding. Unlike a guitar or electric bass, an upright bass does not have frets or fret markers. The player has to play a note based on intonation and technique. Intonation is a musicians ability to realize a certain pitch. For example, a bassist needing to play a D note would place his finger where a D note would resonate, listen to the sound that came from the bass, and determine if it is a D or not. This is one thing that makes upright bass so challenging.

I was excited to start playing my new bass to some music once I fiddled around with it for a while. I pulled up my iTunes library, went to my collection of Robert Johnson and gave it a shot. 

Wow that was challenging...

I usually see myself as a somewhat seasoned musician and am usually pretty comfortable in most situations. But wow is the upright bass humbling me. I was having trouble playing through entire songs without aching in my left arm and hand, along with problems getting the correct pitch. It was as if my eight years of musicianship hardly even mattered as I felt like a complete beginner. Most people who feel like beginners get discouraged way too easily. I have heard this way too many times out of beginning guitarists...

"But I just suck at guitar. I'll never get good."

THERE IS THE FIRST MISTAKE. Too many beginners mope around and have a negative mindset, causing them to quit music. The sad truth is, like most skills on this earth music is challenging. Nobody picks up a trumpet and can instantly play through Miles Davis covers. Everybody starts somewhere and I am starting anew right now. Currently, it doesn't matter how good or bad I am at electric bass, how many bands I've played in or how many times I have performed. I am an absolute beginner and am starting from the bottom. This actually encourages me to learn and get better! In an odd way, being less skilled in something should push you to becoming more skilled!

Sometimes it takes a little bit of embarrassment to push us to new heights. Whether if your humbling moment was making mistakes while performing in front of thousands, or becoming frustrated while in your bedroom, embarrassment can happen to anybody. Don't let it discourage you, instead let it make you want to improve.

And as a side note, please do not get down on new musicians. Like I said, everyone starts somewhere and the cocky musicians are the ones who make beginners so intimidated and insecure about themselves.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.
It's time for you to listen to some ska, you cool cat.

The Specials - Ghost Town
Less Than Jake - All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
Streetlight Manifesto - If And When We Rise Again

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